Sunday Dinner: Rabbit in Mustard Sauce, Spinach & Boiled Potaotes

We're heading into the longest, coldest part of winter and desperately seeking some culinary inspiration. The Union Square Green Market has shrunk to just a few stands during the week -  there are cheeses, meats, jams, syrups, potatoes, apples, and some greens but that's about it. In past years we might have just hunkered down on beef stew all day, everyday. But this year, for the sake of this blog and our palates, we've got to keep things a little more interesting.  So here we are, facing the challenge that local, seasonal eaters butt up against each winter: What the hell are we supposed to eat?

This weekend, we realized that one answer to that question is at the market - right in front of us. With such little variety and so few vendors, we started to notice all those other things we often look over. While colorful vegetables are dwindling, and Irene took many of the root crops, the breadth of meat options remains wider than anything you'd find in a grocery store or most butcher shops. And so we came to another age-old question: Duck season or Wabbit season?

This Sunday, in the Levin-Glanzman household, it was Wabbit season. We don't have a ton of experience cooking game so before trying anything unconventional, we wanted to perfect the classic: Rabbit in Mustard Sauce- a common French countryside dish, and a perfect end to a bone-chilling day. The great thing about rabbit is that while it has a mild and delicate flavor like chicken, the texture of the meat is... well, meatier. And like chicken, it's always available at the market on Fridays (John Fazio) and Saturdays (Quattro's). 

For a dish this ubiquitous we went to our favorite game cook Hank Shaw for the perfect recipe. The rest of the meal was kept simple, with some beautifully bright spinach and boiled butterball potatoes. After this weekend's successful trial, we're excited to tackle the next few months with more rabbit and game experiments. And stay tuned for a rabbit break-down demo!

Rabbit in Musatard Sauce 
Adapted from Hank Shaw

+ 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces
+ salt
+ 6 tablespoons butter
+ 2 large shallots, chopped - we used onions and it worked just fine
+ 1/2 cup white wine - if possible we like to use local wines, but in a pinch we'll go for something from small producers at our favorite wine store, Moore Brothers
+ 1/2 cup chicken stock
+ 1/2 cup grainy Dijon mustard
+ 1 tablespoons fresh thyme

1. Salt the rabbit pieces well and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. 
2. Heat the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large oven-safe sauté or cast iron pan. Pat the rabbit pieces dry with paper towel, and then brown them in the butter in batches. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. As the rabbit is browned, set aside in a bowl. Add shallots to the pan and brown well. This will take 3-4 minutes. Pour in the white wine and turn the heat to high. Scrape off any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the thyme and stock and bring to a rolling boil.
 4. Add the rabbit pieces back into the pan and coat them with sauce. Put in oven until meat is nearly falling off the bone - about 1 hour.
 5. Remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving dish, reserving suace. Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce down by half. Turn off the heat and whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and the mustard. Pour sauce over rabbit and serve.

Serves 3-4

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